by Mackenzie Hicks

My dearest Lydia…

The words stood out in their blackness against the soft cream pages of the book. Lydia kept staring at them as she clipped the white roses, readying them for a vase. The clip of her silver scissors against the stems matched the jump in her heart as she tried to read past those three words.

My dearest Lydia…

Timothy’s handwriting did nothing to reveal the passionate man behind them. They were tight and concise, the way an accountant’s writing should be, but his words were poetic, even when he talked. It was why Lydia had followed him to Paris to live in a tiny houseboat on the Seine. She would have gone anywhere in the world with that tall, lanky man.

My dearest Lydia…

She clipped the final rose and placed it in the vase with the others. She liked keeping flowers next to her reading chair. They reminded her of their time together, walking hand in hand through the streets of Paris, visiting the Eiffel Tower and every other tourist destination they could think of before becoming locals themselves. Spring was always their favorite season. The flowers blooming like new love on every corner. 

My dearest Lydia…

Lydia sighed deeply and ran her fingers down the tail of a red ribbon stuck in the back of the book. Timothy had stuck it there the day he proposed. It marked page 327. There, Mr. Darcy declared his love for Elizabeth, unable to name the time or place their love had begun. In the margins of the page, Timothy had written, “Will you marry me, my dearest Lydia?”

Now, the front pages bore his sharp handwriting.

My dearest Lydia…

Lydia had been devastated to find him gone from their home, a new apartment a few miles from the Seine, where their houseboat still floated. His clothes were missing from the closet. All his books missing from their places on the shelf. But nothing had hurt her more than his note written in the front of their book. He had defaced it with his false apologies, and Lydia couldn’t bring herself to read them.

“She would have gone anywhere in the world with that tall, lanky man.”

My dearest Lydia…

Lydia closed the book. She had been trying for three months now to read past those three words. She knew what lay beyond them, and it wouldn’t take the sting away when she laid down at night, and he wasn’t next to her. It wouldn’t heal her shattered heart. Timothy had left, and she didn’t need to know all the reasons why.

She placed it in a box with other books she was planning to donate to the local library. She couldn’t throw it away. It wasn’t its fault Timothy had broken the love resting between its pages. Someone else would see the apology in the beginning followed by a declaration of love in the end and believe their story ended happily. Lydia hoped it brought them happiness as it once had her.

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